Mary Dimino On How Being Scared Skinny Holds Women Back
12:15 pm, May 2nd | by Sarah Devlin
Like a lot of us, Mary Dimino was fed up with the constant pressure from our culture and media for women to diet and stay thin. But while most of us just complain, she wrote a whole book about it! Her new book, Scared Skinny, chronicles her weight loss after a lifetime of struggle with her weight.
“There was a time in my life when I worshipped the word ‘skinny’ and wanted to be known as that,” she says in press materials for the book. “After reflecting on my own experiences, and teaming up with [co-author] Brad, I realized that the emphasis in our society should be on living a healthy life, not by trying to become a size zero overnight. We hope that this book will give women a fresh outlook on their weight and body image and hopefully push the nation in the right direction.” We got to chat with Mary a few weeks ago about the book in more depth.
Among other things, Dimino expanded on what drove her to write Scared Skinny. “I want to be an inspiration to others, especially other women who are in their deepest darkest place, which I know [about] because I was there,” she told us. “At my biggest weight I was 265 lbs. If I was able to do it I really feel that I need to share my story with other women so that they know that they’re not alone. When you’re in your deep dark place you fel so alone. People need encouragement, understanding, acceptance of who they are in the moment.”
One of the things that sets her book apart is an acknowledgment that weight obsession is not totally individuals’ fault. “Technology advances along with weight bias [and] sedentary culture [has created] an obsession with being skinny. And that’s the benchmark now,” Dimino noted. This kind of obsessive thinking about weight and thinness, rather than health, can be particularly damaging for women.
“It’s exhausting if you think of all the energy — even the mental focus — that goes into our looks and our bodies instead of our personal fulfillment,” Dimino noted. “Lots of girls and women too are led to believe how they look and their weight is directly connected to their worthiness in society.”
So how to contend with this problem? Dimino hopes her book can begin to reframe the conversation about weight loss. “The first thing [is] to come to a sense of understanding. Understand that there are so many things going on [in our bodies and environments] — it’s not all on our shoulders. Once we understand everything that’s happening around us, we can hone in and control our world.” In order to do that, women should “first understand [weight loss] pressures. We’re not aware of them because they’re so normal,” Dimino argued.
“There’s research on weight bias everywhere. The media uses our own fear of being overweight against us. It’s used to take our money and manipulate us and target us with ads. [We need to realize that] any extreme is not good, [that it's] about leading healthy lives and eating healthy food — a more inclusive lifestyle focused on happiness and self fulfillment.”
Of course, Dimino’s book will have to compete in a marketplace saturated by tomes on weight loss. She’s not worried about her ability to set herself apart from the pack, though. “[Scared Skinny is] more of an anti-diet book. [It recognizes that] not one size fits all. [There are all kinds of] different body shapes, [there's] no ideal. It’s unsustainable for some women to have [thinness be their] goal. Health doesn’t connect to pounds.”
Easier said than done? Even Dimino recognizes that it can be a daily struggle to retrain oneself to focus less on weight and more on health. She still struggles with it from time to time. But when that happens, she says, “I try to stay focused and separate myself from that [thinking]. Oh, I feel fat, oh I wish I was thinner. It happens and is normal. [But when it does], just think of all the amazing things your body has done [in your life].”